In 2023, the UConn men and women’s basketball programs will have some tremendous young talent on their roster. From Solomon Ball to Qadence Samuels, there’s plenty to rave about regarding these Husky newcomers. But the difficult part comes when thinking about which freshman player one is most excited about. While highly-touted prospects like Stephon Castle and KK Arnold are both obvious choices, we asked our sports section to choose from some of the other options amongst this Huskies freshman class in the first Daily Campus Sports Section roundtable of another exciting UConn sports season.
The UConn men’s basketball team is stacked with new players for this season, one of whom is four-star ranked Solomon Ball. Ball is a 6-foot-3-inch lefty combo guard from Sharpsburg, Maryland and made his commitment to UConn on July 1, 2022 as the third commit lined up for the Huskies’ 2023 recruiting class. Ball is the kind of player that has been named to “do it all” from offense to defense and explode on the court. Last summer, Ball played in the Nike EYBL Indianapolis session and lit up the courts, showing college scouts the true potential of the player he could be after high school. He is a versatile player who will pair perfectly with fellow freshmen Stephon Castle and Jayden Ross. Ball’s skill set and talent should be a great fit in Storrs and I am hugely looking forward to seeing what No. 1 will be able to accomplish at Gampel Pavilion once he has found his groove with the reigning National Champion Huskies.
Associate Sports Editor
I still remember the first time checking out some Nike EYBL highlights around the time that I heard that the Huskies were recruiting Ross and with the Virginia native now officially donning the blue and white in 2023, I can say that I’m super intrigued with what he can do in a UConn uniform. Whether it’s the freakish athleticism that saw him dazzle college scouts or a defender with a ton of potential to improve, he’s truly a guy that can do some impactful things in Storrs. While he is still a raw prospect and is going to take some time to adjust to the college game, I know that I’m not going to be the only one interested to see what Ross can do with the help of coach Hurley and the crew.
While she has not posted the same numbers that Arnold and Samuels have in the first two exhibition matches of the women’s team’s European tour, Ashlynn Shade still shows a lot of promise. Collecting five steals in the first contest versus the Croatian All-Stars and snatching seven rebounds in the second against Akson Ilirija, the freshman’s game reminds me so much of Aubrey Griffin’s in the sense that she can be a multi-purpose disruptive defender. But on top of her suffocating defense, Shade has the prowess of a dynamic all-around weapon the Huskies could build around in the future. Averaging 21.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and four steals at Noblesville High School near Indianapolis, Indiana, Shade earned a spot on the McDonald’s All-American East Squad with 24 points and nine boards per contest at La Lumiere School in the Hoosier State. The scoring will come as the 5-foot-9-inch guard transitions into the collegiate game, but until then, Shade offers a strong skill set that could make her one of the first players off the bench.
Although she doesn’t have the stars on her recruiting page that some of her fellow freshmen have, Samuels is an exciting freshman wing to watch out for. She’s not going to back you down or muscle her way to the basket like Aaliyah Edwards would, but Samuels has a smooth game at 6-foot. Her best offensive trait is her silky jumper that has improved greatly throughout high school, along with her finishing abilities. She’s been able to effectively get buckets through contact against high schoolers, but there’s a chance that at the collegiate level she’ll need more muscle. She has a long frame that makes it tough to score against her, but as is true with her offensive game, she will have difficulties when tasked to stop a much stronger player. The good news is that Samuels has time to develop. There’s a lot of competition at the wing and forward, so it’s likely that Samuels will use this time to get stronger so that she’s ready to really contribute when players like Edwards and Griffin graduate.